Video: Elon Musk Unveils SpaceX Seattle Operations

Video Caption:
SpaceX announced that they are opening an office in the Seattle area to design and manufacture satellites for the long term vision of traveling to Mars. Elon Musk visited Seattle Center and gave a short presentation plus Q&A at the party. This is the full version that has been edited to remove pauses between questions.

Editor’s Note:
My summary of the talk follows.

  • focus on creating global communications system
  • cut costs of satellites as well as rockets to revolutionize space
  • satellites can you used for Earth science and space science
  • goal: create a global communications system
  • long-term goal: rebuilding the Internet in space
  • about 4,000 satellites – technical discussion today was 4,025
  • does not see bandwidth as being a major issue
  • has done filings with ITU for bandwidth allocation
  • would need agreements with individual countries to have ground receivers
  • develop satellites the same way automobiles are mass produced part
  • build a large constellation, if one satellite goes out, take it out of constellation and de-orbit it
  • “In the past, I’ve been a little optimistic on schedule. I’m trying to re-calibrate.”
  • get version 1 active with global coverage in about five years
  • successive versions every two or three years beyond that
  • will take 12 to 15 years to get system to its full capabilities
  • major upgrades in system every five years or so
  • quite sophisticated satellites – smaller satellites (few hundred kilogram range) with big satellite capabilities
  • ultimately over time will cost $10 to $15 billion to create
  • user terminals would cost $100 to $300 apiece
  • majority of long-distance Internet traffic go through satellites
  • 10 percent of global consumer and business traffic
  • majority of users will still be via fiber
  • speed of light in vacuum is 40 to 50 percent faster than in fiber
  • current path is convoluted, goes through 200 routers
  • satellites reduce that to two to four hops
  • order of magnitude fewer repeaters and routers
  • would serve both advanced nations and poor ones
  • “It’s a really difficult technical problem to solve.”
  • wants to make sure we don’t create SkyNet
  • when first started at SpaceX, it was jokingly called SkyNet
  • Seattle office will start out relatively small, plan to add right expertise at right time
  • system will probably involve half software and half hardware – eventually software could dominate
  • plan is to use this to help fund a city on Mars
  • SpaceX won’t go public for quite some time – when they are doing regular flights to Mars
  • long-term goal of settling Mars doesn’t mesh well with short-term focus of shareholders and money managers
  • offers stock options and restricted stock – do liquidity events every six months, do stock buy backs
  • will present transportation architecture for going to Mars toward the end of the year